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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Illumination, 9 Jan 2010
By 
D. M. Purkiss "Diane" (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde (Hardcover)
I have no idea why Wagner attracts so many blowfly-like parasites, of whom one of the worst is the ubiquitous Millington, who even surfaces in such places as 1001 Recordings to Hear Before You Die to tell us all NOT to listen to Parsifal, but this book is different in a truly welcome way; Scruton loves Tristan and Isolde rather than feeling an urgent need to denounce its beauty and greatness, and the results are in every way illuminating. I did think he overstressed the distinction between eros and agape; for Wagner sensuousness is not erased but subsumed by lvoe and courage and sacrfice - and I had some doubts too about his thoughts on courtly love, but it was good to see someone at least trying to unravel the antecedents of the work. Some more on the Wesendonck lieder would have been welcome too, but it's great that this book doesn't confine itself to warming up biographical imperatives but gets on with what the work itself does with these. The book does make the incomprehensible and overwhelming beauty of this extraordinary music drama more intelligible without makeing it smaller and simpler. I recommend it very warmly (even though I'm probably at the opposite end of the political spectrum to Scruton - but that doens't matter here, and it shouldn't).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death, but the aftermath ?, 6 Nov 2009
By 
Raymond C. Hodgkinson (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde (Hardcover)
Tristan and Isolde love each other and that is all that matters, they don't care about anything else, the world its trappings their positions are little more than figments of their imagination. What they do is to be applauded says the author Roger Scruton. In each other's personality, in their physical carnal prescence they envelop each other, and they find in this love and physicality the answer to doubts about existence, doubts about immortality and doubts presumably about the judgement of morality. To Mr Scruton love is not a divine essence, a precursor of heavenly felicity, but a gazing in the eyes of one another and living for the moment. This love he implies is not an infatuation with tragic consequences for everyone else involved but the result of two human beings treating the other as a complete vulnerable and lovable personality. Nothing else has a claim, the world exists for Tristan and Isolde and their love. It's as though life is a mistake but redeemed through such a love. No room for sentimentality, no room for regrets, no room for responsibility. How the world and any religion can survive is left for the reader to ponder.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, 20 Feb 2004
By 
dwilson (East Sussex) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde (Hardcover)
The _music_ has "touched the hearts of many" but I suspect the book won't - even if we allow that it should. I think it will be one of the most interesting and original books published this year, but I don't foresee big sales for it, because it caters to a minority interest.
Few people could have written this. This short but packed book gives evidence of such a wide command of so many different areas. Few of us could even muster such a wide reading background in musicology, literature, philosophy, anthropology, comparative religion, and sociology - let alone be as at home with the matter. The professor seems equally so with Schoenberg and with Durkheim; I'm inclined to believe he could read _Finnegan's Wake_ with the facility with which I'd tackle _Peter Rabbit_.
I imagine some could follow the table of musical motifs given as an appendix but be lost in the abstract arguments - and _vice versa_. And yet the writing is not obscure but lucid. No wonder Scruton, famed for his highbrow social conservatism, evokes such envy and hatred among certain pseudo-intellectuals on the left, who must be dimly aware that here is a man who _really_ has the intellectual grasp so many pretend to - and (in such a highly politicized world as ours) claim for their favoured political ideologies.
In the end, the message of this book is a conservative one. I say this because Scruton finds meaning, not in abstract doctrine, but in what he has elsewhere called the ordinary humble forms of human life. What happens between Tristan and Isolde is an idealized form of what can happen for us all, he seems to say. Experiencing love, and responding to it and to the sense of transcendence that comes with it is one way in which we can find meaning in life.
In our fragmented world with its increasing _anomie_ and spiralling rates of depression and suicide perhaps we really do need to be be reminded that it is possible to find meaning in life. Does his argument succeed? The reader must decide. At any rate, it is worthwhile reading such a short but densely packed essay.
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14 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the deepest books of contemporary times., 10 Feb 2004
This review is from: Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde (Hardcover)
If ever there was a book that touched the hearts of so many, this is it. Blending pure emotion with undeniable fact, Roger Scrutin manages to pull of possibly the most moving book of modern times. Tackling the subject matter with brutal dedication and showing an elite awareness of the sheer love that drove Wagner to fulfill himself, Scrutin engages the reader from the first page right to the very last. A truly astounding piece of literature.
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